by Rick Braunig
AvRep, MnDOT Aeronautics
While an FAA licensed mechanic can sign your logbook for the maintenance they perform and the FAA is fine with it, the State of Minnesota is not. The Minnesota rules state that: “Any person who, for compensation or for hire, provides or offers to provide aircraft maintenance as defined in current federal aviation regulations found in Code of Federal Regulations, title 14, part 43, major or minor repair, or alteration to airframes or aircraft power plants or both, is deemed to be engaged in the business of aircraft servicing, maintaining, and repairing and must have a commercial operations license with an endorsement to certify the person’s authority to engage in aircraft servicing, maintaining, and repairing.”
Getting a license from the State would seem to be an easy proposition. There are only three things that are required: First, a building or shop on a public or private airport with adequate size and sufficient space to work on aircraft. Second; you will need permission from the airport owner, and third, the required insurances. Prove you meet these criteria and send in an application with the $30 license fee and you are set to go.
In addition to premise insurance, Minnesota aircraft maintenance shops are required to have an insurance called “products hazard and completed operations.” This insurance protects the aircraft owner and the maintenance provider from bad parts and bad maintenance. Without it the aircraft owner may find himself or herself in a bad spot through no fault of their own.
I know of a gentleman who had some maintenance done in his hangar by a mechanic that gave him a “good price.” A half hour into his next flight the engine quit and an off-airport landing followed. He and his son suffered minor injuries, but the aircraft was a total loss. The mechanic didn’t have any insurance. Would your insurance cover you in this case? What about the mechanic? He wasn’t protected in any way. If the owner or his insurance carrier sues the mechanic for the loss of the aircraft, how does he pay?
We also think hangar keeper’s insurance is a good idea. This insurance protects your aircraft in case something happens to it while it is in the shop’s hangar. What if the hangar catches fire and all the aircraft are destroyed. The hangar keeper’s insurance pays for the damage to your aircraft. We don’t require hangar keeper’s insurance, but we do require the maintenance provider to inform their customers in writing if they do not provide it.
So if you are an aircraft mechanic and work for Delta Airlines, does Delta Airlines need a commercial license to perform aircraft maintenance? No, they don’t, as long as they only work on their own aircraft. The same is true of Bemidji Aviation. They wouldn’t need a commercial license for aircraft maintenance if they only worked on their own aircraft, but because they choose to offer their services to others, they are required to have the Aircraft Servicing, Maintenance and Repair endorsement.
As an aircraft owner, there are certain maintenance tasks the FAA authorizes you to perform. If you happen to be a licensed airframe and/or power plant mechanic, you can exercise the full extent of those privileges on your own aircraft without a commercial operator’s license. You could even help out your friend on their aircraft as long as you didn’t take any compensation.
When we look for people to do maintenance on our aircraft, we are concerned that they have the tools, equipment and training to properly do the maintenance we are asking them to perform. Even then, there is no guarantee the repair will be perfect, but when it isn’t, because we only use operators with a commercial license, we know we have recourse to get any problems addressed.
The next time you need maintenance, I hope that one of the things you’ll ask of your maintenance shop is to see their commercial operator’s license. If you would like to check, we keep a list of all licensed operators on our website at: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/aero/aviationbusinesses.html. If your shop isn’t on our list, give us a call and we will work with them to get them licensed.
If you’ve been providing maintenance without the required commercial operator’s license, I hope you’ll take the time to get your commercial operator’s license…without it you are breaking the law. You should also know that we will be working with the airport managers in the state, the Minnesota Aviation Trades Association and pilots and aircraft owners to identify and communicate with people who may be in violation of this rule.